1812 $5 (1812 Half Eagle) PCGS AU55. This Capped Bust 1812 Half Eagle has muted mint luster glowing in protected areas. The coin is well struck with full details on Liberty’s hair, the centers of the stars, the eagle, and the shield. The dentils are full on both sides of the coin. There is sufficient separation in the lines of Liberty’s hair and the cap to warrant the grade. For the grade, the surfaces are clean and free of distractions. No adjustment marks are seen on the coin.
The Capped Bust to Left gold half eagle series was minted from 1807 to 1812. During this time Congress decided to retain the Mint, and its lease was renewed and extended until May 19, 1828 when it was authorized to continue “in force and operation, until otherwise provided by law.” Prior to this time, it was in danger of being closed by Congress, whose members could easily criticize a bungling federal institution. It came up regularly for review, and was always in danger of being voted out of existence.
John Reich designed the Capped Bust half eagle of 1807 to 1834. It is stylistically related to the Capped Bust half dollar he also created. The obverse shows Liberty in profile facing left wearing a LIBERTY inscribed cap that was intended to represent a Phrygian cap. Seven stars are to her left and six are to the right with the date below the truncation. The reverse shows the heraldic eagle with wings raised up. Between them, on a banner, is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM. The required inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounds the coin, interrupted by the wing tips, and the denomination written as 5 D. is below.
Reich corrected the error made by Robert Scot in the design of the previous half eagle (as well as his other heraldic eagle motifs). Scot had placed the arrows in the eagle’s right or dexter claw and put the olive branch in the left or sinister claw. This reversal of the positions of these two items is an inaccurate modification of the Great Seal of the United States. Arrows in the right claw symbolize extreme militarism, which is hardly a message a young nation should place on its coinage, unless one considers that the United States and France were engaged in an undeclared naval war regarding shipping rights, and perhaps the reversal was meant to be a warning to France and other nations with regard to the United States’ sovereignty. With the issuance of the new design, the Capped Bust Half Eagle, the olive branch is in the right claw and the arrows are in the left.
Reich put the denomination on the gold and silver coins. This innovation had not been done previously because coins, especially in Europe, were valued for their metallic content and weight.
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